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Cook the Book: 'Burma: Rivers of Flavor'

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It's a shame that Americans aren't more familiar with Burmese cooking. After all, the country sits smack dab in the middle of some of the most culinarily well-known countries in Asia—India, China, and Thailand—and its multifaceted cuisine borrows flavors from all three. Think rich curries and lentils, plus Sichuan peppercorns, plus lemongrass, lime, and fermented fish.

Sure there are a few Burmese restaurants scattered here and there throughout the country, but Burma's (recently reopened) borders seem to have kept their culinary genius mostly under lock and key.

Luckily for us, James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Naomi Duguid has come to the rescue. Following in the footsteps of her other fabulously detailed and photographed books (Beyond the Great Wall, Hot Sour Salty Sweet, and Mangos and Curry Leaves for starters), she has released a wondrous collection of all things Burmese in Burma: Rivers of Flavor.

Simply flipping through the book takes you on a culinary expedition through each aspect of Burmese cuisine, from vibrant and funky salads to rich meat curries and soul-warming soups. And there's more to the book than just recipes. Duguid is an apt observer of culture, as she interweaves stories of religion, politics, and family throughout the book.

This week we'll explore several regional specialities. First, we'll try our hand at a Banana Flower Salad from the Rakhine region and spicy-tangy Golden Egg Curry. Next, we'll head to the worthernmost reaches of the country for Kachin Pounded Beef and then back west for River Fish Celebration. Finally, we'll round out the week with Coconut Sauce Noodles, a dish Duguid cites as one of the most beloved.

Win 'Burma: Rivers of Flavor'

Thanks to the kind folks at Artisan, we have five (5) copies of Burma: Rivers of Flavor to give away this week. All you need to do is tell us about the most exotic meal you've eaten in the the recent past in the comments section below.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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